Facebook users have fueled a frenzy thanks to a fake lottery ticket.
Like a lot of things in the virtual world, this ticket isn’t real. A guy who posted a picture of himself on the popular social networking service holding what he claims is one of the two winning tickets from Wednesday’s record $575.5 million Powerball jackpot has perpetrated a hoax.
But that hasn’t stopped more than 1.5 million people from sharing the photo on Facebook.
Several clues point to the ticket being a fake.
First, the numbers on his ticket aren’t in ascending order, as they should be. Also, the winning ticket from Arizona is supposedly a $10 ticket, and the man in the photo says the one he’s holding set him back $2.
Meanwhile, media outlets have been showing surveillance video of a different man who may be the mystery winner—he turned up at a Maryland convenience store, checked his ticket numbers and began shouting “I won!”
It’s an interesting psychology study on a couple of different levels.
Why go to all the trouble to fake a winning ticket, and who has time for such shenanigans?
Well, Facebook now boasts over 1 billion users, with more than half that number spending time on the social network every month, so certainly a portion of its population is well versed in contributing trivial or nonsensical content for others to consume.
The winning tickets were sold in Missouri and Arizona. While the Missouri winner has come forward, the holder of the ticket bought at a convenience store in a Phoenix suburb hasn’t.
What apparently drove the Facebook frenzy was the man in the picture’s promise to share his purported winnings with another Facebook user.
“Looks like I won't be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!” a guy calling himself Nolan Daniels posted .
The idea that a lottery winner is going to randomly give a stranger on Facebook $1 million is pretty silly to begin with, yet the number of people playing along continues to grow.
According to a Psychology Today article, people have two main motivations for getting caught up in the Powerball madness.
First, there’s a bandwagon mentality in which we don’t want to be left out of the hype surrounding the lottery, which is seemingly everywhere in the media.
But perhaps an even more compelling reason people might share the unlikely post of a stranger who says he might give them money involves sheer hope and fantasy.
Wishful thinking aside, the truth is you have a 1 in 175 million chance of winning the Powerball jackpot.
As CNN points out, “You're more likely to die from a bee string (1 in 6.1 million), be struck by lightning (1 in 3 million) or have conjoined twins (1 in 200,000).”